Anxiety brain has struck again. The last time this happened, I was having a lovely conversation with Kieran’s parents and happened to mention that my mum had recently been to Turkey. Out of nowhere anxiety brain popped up. After I’d mentioned she was going back there soon, it took on the appearance of social anxiety and somehow coerced me into a word trap where I ended up for some reason telling them that she was moving there. I have no idea how it happened, we’re definitely not moving there, but I talked myself into a trap and was then too anxious/cursed with British politeness to sort of go “oh excuse me no that’s WRONG’ so I sort of had to go with it for a while. Kieran gave me a look of ‘I didn’t know that?!’ when I said it and when I told him the truth he laughed for a full 5 minutes before bailing me out and telling them.

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My anxiety sort of combines with the curse of British politeness- you know, the thing where every sentence starts with ‘sorry’, where tutting is a form of discipline akin to torture, and where if you ask someone’s name three times in a row and still don’t get it, you can’t ask again but have to avoid addressing them directly by name for the rest of your life: ‘oh, did you ask me a question?….yes, you?’. The curse also strikes in unexpected places like the doctor’s: when they ask what’s wrong, instead of telling them why you’re there you’re forced to respond with ‘oh no I’m fine thanks, how are you?’.

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Anyways, this time anxiety brain popped up WHAM just before Kieran and I did an exercise class with his mum and sister. Just to clarify, I have embarrassed myself at enough gym classes to know that when anxiety brain pops up I am neither co-ordinated nor in control of my own limbs. I can be watching the instructor go ‘left leg back, arm in the air like this, pulse’ yet have my own arms and legs join together to rebel against me in what must look like some sort of interpretative dance. To an outsider, the evening would have gone something like this: lovely family go with son’s girlfriend to lovely class, behave like normal humans, and have a lovely time. I did have a great time and by the time I left I was pretty happy, but at the beginning, when I was terrified, to anxiety brain it went something like this:

Me: Ok, I’m going to walk in, do the exercise, and not embarrass myself.

Anxiety brain: If you run now, you can hide until the class is over. Run now. FLEE!

Kieran had to herd me in. He was wonderful, and whilst I was hunched mute with anxiety in the corner of the room he set up all my equipment for me. Nobody had been looking at me when I walked in, but since my default anxiety face was sort of:

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They were definitely looking at me after. Anxiety brain wasn’t going to give up on an exit plan that easy:

Anxiety brain: you should go now, you’re probably going to throw up. …Actually, make that definitely, you’re definitely going to throw up. You’ll be embarrassed forever.

Once I’d established that it wasn’t one of those gym rooms where it was impossible to hide in the back row, either because the whole room was a wall of mirrors where you couldn’t escape your own ineptitude, or because it was a trap and there WAS no back row, my original plan had been to hide in the back with Kieran. Since Kieran’s mum is also wonderful, instead the pair of them wedged me in the corner behind them so that I was shielded from all sides and could follow what they did, which I was very grateful for. They all knew I was nervous and were handling me like a skittish horse, all talking in soothing voices, and once Kieran had established I wasn’t going to bolt or throw up, the class began. At first I was just as terrified as I thought I’d be, and anxiety brain was having a whale of a time:

Anxiety brain: look at that, everybody’s judging you. You have much smaller weights than everyone else and they’re all thinking you shouldn’t be here. Also, you’re doing that wrong.

Me: Nobody’s looking, it’s fine, shhhhh

Anxiety brain: yep, all these people came here with the sole purpose of laughing at you. Fool.

But then, about a third of the way through the class, just as randomly I beat anxiety brain, and started to actually enjoy myself, and by the time I left, not only was I happy I was also feeling pretty:

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HA. I beat my anxiety, which means me: 1, anxiety brain: 0

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